Shapereader is tactile language designed to allow the creation of universally accessible narrative works of tactile literature . . .



Shaperader is comics book for the blind, and others who can’t use conventional print media. It was developed by Finnish conceptual artist Ilan Manouach with extensive support from the Koneen Säätiö Institute.

Shapereader consists of an ever expanding repertoire of anaglyph shapes called tactigrams designed to provide haptic equivalents for objects, actions, affections, characters and so on. Created from scratch, their design is based on criteria of simplicity, easiness of memorization and distinguishability. For example, a category of shapes assigned to affections includes primary states such as joy, fear or sadness as well as more complex ones such as coercion, remorse and unease. Each affection is available in three incremental intensities and this change of magnitude is intuitively translated by the gradual thickening of the shape’s core pattern. These affections can be combined synergetically allowing for an unprecedented realistic, fine-tuned and rich description of the emotional states of the plot’s characters.

The first major project of Shapereader is Arctic Circle, the story of Sir Alfred Cook. It features unique icons for Cook himself, as well as animals, natural features like moss, snow, leafs, and emotional states such as anxiety.

Unfortunately, you can’t experience it online due to the tactile interaction needed to make it work. I haven’t see a Shapereader piece in person, but I’d love to, the opportunity to work with a new language to tell stories through a physically manifested language sounds fascinating.